These Pigeons Are Lighting Up the Brooklyn Night Sky

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This piece, a collaboration with Creative Time (the organization responsible for Kara Walker’s recent sculpture at the Domino Sugar Factory), will begin at dusk.

Ticketed visitors to the Yard will be escorted to waterfront. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds—Homers and Flights, Rollers and Tumblers, Russian Highfliers and Syrian Damascenes—will emerge from a floating coop, their legs banded with tiny LED lights where military messages once lived, flocking and swooping in a choreographed progression and brightening the sky over the East River. 

A century ago, the U.S. military’s largest pigeon coop was located on Cob Dock, a small island then part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The homing pigeons were loaded onto naval vessels and sent to relay communications from ships at sea. 

This month, 2,000 of them return to Wallabout Bay, where on weekends the artist Duke Riley will be staging Fly by Night, a large-scale piece of pigeon performance art. Riley’s worked with pigeons before—many of the birds come from his personal coop in Red Hook, including a Syrian Damascene named Tofu that his crew rescued and raised by hand.